GRAPHIC NOVELS

I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi

Fantagraphics. Sept. 2019. 232p. ISBN 9781683962113. $29.99. BIOG
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Siciliano (Summertime: A Graphic Novella in Four Parts) presents a passionate portrait of Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–1653) in this painstakingly researched new biography. In the 17th century, patriarchal Europe was defined by political turmoil, endless war, and religious control. Women were discouraged, if not forbidden, from becoming artists—banned from receiving formal training or joining guilds. Yet a teenage Artemisia, after being trained by her celebrated painter father, Orazio Gentileschi, persists, even after one of Orazio’s peers rapes her and another takes the opportunity to steal one of her paintings. Artemisia bravely accuses her attacker and refuses to recant her testimony, even after being tortured during her trial. Afterward, she marries and moves to Florence, where she becomes a mother, embroiled in a love triangle, and specializes in paintings of women battling against male control.
VERDICT Siciliano’s exquisite craftsmanship is clear on every page of this occasionally dense but consistently engrossing volume, which portrays the artist’s plight with affection and urgency, convincingly arguing that Gentileschi’s accomplishments are deserved of recognition given her male counterparts.

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